WE MEET YOUTH WHERE THEY ARE AT
One of our successes at SOS Children’s Village BC is that we ‘meet youth where they are at’. We don’t say “tell us all your experiences and we’ll help you through it”, our staff work with youth to find out what their goals are, and then we create a plan to help youth get there.
What we’ve learned is that when you sit down with youth and ask them what they need support with, it’s always employment, post-secondary education, housing, food, and money. And if anything on that list starts slipping, the first thing is always food.
Food Security During a Pandemic
This last year has been undeniably hard for all of us. But for youth in care and youth aging out of care, this year has been especially difficult. Due to social distancing, we are seeing youth pushed further into isolation and unable to foster relationships and bonds with the community around them. During this pandemic we have been checking in more frequently with our youth, and when doing mental health and wellness checks we are noticing a pattern of empty fridges and food insecurity.
For some youth, there’s a struggle leaving isolation and managing stress, such as anxiety at the idea of going to the grocery store. For others, transportation is a barrier and they aren’t able to easily access a grocery store or pay for transit fare.
Barriers such as these create circumstances where youth are leaving their kitchens bare, and turning towards takeout, fast food, and unhealthy meals.
Knowledge of nutrition and health is a barrier for some youth in care. Moving frequently throughout your lifetime doesn’t always allow for the lessons in nutrition that others received at home while growing up.
Food security is an incredibly important topic to us because food is something that will impact youth for the rest of their life. As a youth, learning how to make healthy choices and eating habits will help to shape them into healthier members of the community in the future.
We are very fortunate to be able to do quarterly food bank runs to help support the youth at the Village, however those are limiting in what can be provided. These runs are a consistent source of non-perishables, but fresh produce and proteins are very hard to come by. It’s a poignant reminder of the privilege that comes with being able to eat healthy, nutritious food. One youth at the Village has recently told their support worker that they have decided to go vegetarian, because they just don’t have enough money to buy meat proteins.
How We’re Helping
With the youth in our programs, we do our best to alleviate these barriers and encourage nutrition and healthy eating habits. Our Transition to Adulthood program and Year Intensive Housing program both address healthy eating, self-care, and life skills to equip youth with the necessary tools as they reach adulthood. When we can, we take youth on grocery runs and provide rides and group trips to the grocery store.
With the support of grants from Breakfast Club of Canada, Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society, and other caring donors, we’ve been able to do food security runs for the youth and families at the Village. It costs approximately $2,000 to sustain and help support the families for 2-3 months.
As a preventative measure for COVID-19 and for the health and safety of our youth and families at the Village, we have also created a small Village stock of food to ensure that they have enough food security to get them through anything that might happen.
Summing it up
Food security is not a new problem for youth in or aging out of care, but COVID has made it 100 times harder. At SOS BC, we notice these struggles with food security, and we are committed to ensuring that our youth have the support of a community and youth workers to reach their goals.
By Maiya Chan, Communications and Development Assistant
Edited by William Brennan